I remember watching in horror as scenes I thought I would never see in my lifetime were broadcast: starving men behind barbed wire in concentration camps, women and children shelled queuing for bread in the city’s market, people running for their lives holding babies picked off by snipers in the hills above Sarajevo. 

It was hard to believe this was happening in Europe at the end of the 20th century, in a sophisticated, multicultural country whose capital city had been host to the Winter Olympic Games less than ten years before.

“In Sarajevo, our young guide Alen Selimovic showed us the city and talked about his experience as a child in Sarajevo during the war. 

Over 100,000 people were killed, 80,000 of them Bosnian Muslims like Alen. 

Sarajevo was under siege by the Serbian army for almost four years, stopping all food and aid supplies getting in and anyone getting out. 

READ MORE: Deacon Blue confront horror of Srebrenica genocide 

Sarajevo’s 380,000 beleaguered citizens struggled to survive the daily shell and sniper attacks as well as coping with chronic food shortages, no running water or electricity. 

Alen told of how his father, fearing their lives, took his then three-year-old son in his arms and ran across one of the bridges into the city centre seeking shelter in a friend’s basement. Listening to this articulate young man, not much older than my daughters, now a lawyer but unable to find full-time employment, it was hard to believe what he had lived through. 

What I had been watching on television, he had lived.

We left Sarajevo to visit the town of Srebrenica. Over the course of three days in July 1995, over 8,000 Bosnian men and boys between the ages of 13 to 70 were massacred by the Serbian army. 

Many were killed trying to escape the town on a 60km walk through the hills to Tusla. This walk became known as the Death March. Of the estimated 10,000 men and boys who started the march, 2,000 made it there alive.

A few miles from Srebrenica, in a place called Potacari, stands an old deserted battery factory where the UN had set up their headquarters in order to observe the situation and act as peacekeepers. 

It is now a museum to the dead. Here we met Hassan Hasanovic. Now in his early forties, he was an 18-year-old boy when he, his twin brother and father set out on that terrible walk. Already starving and with no shoes, this was their only hope of survival. 

Hassan was the only one of his family who made it. He was separated from his brother and father amid the thousands on the move, and presumed they would be reunited in Tusla. 

Hassan himself only survived because an elderly man handed over a few sachets of sugar he

had taken with him on the march, before handing himself to the Serbs, knowing he wouldn’t survive the gruelling march. 

READ MORE: 22 years on, the women of Srebrenica: their story must be told 

Watching Hassan tell this story was difficult. Before he spoke he sat in silence for a few moments with his eyes closed. Perhaps praying, perhaps just summoning up the courage to tell this intensely personal horror story one more time. It was hard to believe what he spoke of happened 25 years ago, so raw was the emotion. Hassan said he knows that his brother and father had died thirsty and hungry. These facts seemed to haunt him the most.

The manner of their deaths, the pain and terror they had no doubt endured could only be imagined. But their thirst and hunger were stark, irrefutable facts.

Hassan walked with us across the road to the cemetery where 6,000 massacred bodies lie. There are still 2,000 missing. Their bodies lying shattered and scattered in the hills or in one of the mass graves which have not yet been identified.

In the cemetery, we were introduced to Fadila Efendic, an elderly woman who lost her son and husband in the genocide. 

Speaking with incredible grace and dignity she explained how she had to find a purpose for her life, so opened a tiny shop next to the cemetery. 

Here she sells flowers for the graves with postcards, key rings and books. As we left her shop she put a sprig of scented flowers in my buttonhole and smiled.

Earlier in the day, on the way to Srebrenica, we stopped in Tusla, the town which had been a beacon of hope to those wandering men and boys.

We visited the International Commission on Missing Persons - a series of Portacabins where we found one young woman working alone. Forensic pathologist Dragona Vucetic’s job is to piece together the skeletal remains of the bodies from plastic bags. 

We stood by her table were two collections of bones lay stretched out before us, the realisation that this was someone’s beloved son, father or brother was hard to take in.

Dragona explained that through DNA sampling she was painstakingly putting bodies back together so that families had something to bury, a place to mourn. 

She took us to her storeroom where row upon row of plastic bags containing unidentified remains lay on shelves stretching right to the back of the room. The smell was strong and unpleasant, but Dragona works here day after day and has done so for fourteen years. 

When the bodies arrive she washes them and removes and washes any clothes that are worn. They are returned to the families when a body is identified. Sometimes a family can no longer take the agony of waiting for their loved one’s complete body to be returned to them and instead bury a fragment of a foot bone or some other body part. 

When I ask Dragona how she copes with the harrowing nature of her work, she simply says,

“I run. A lot.”

At first, I wasn’t sure about the purpose of our trip, other than paying our respects in remembering the atrocities which took place. 

By the end I was clear. It was to remember  - but also to warn .

Every person I spoke to in Bosnia, when asked if they thought genocide could happen again, said yes. Some said it probably would. I left with the understanding that if it can happen there, it can happen here.

As our society goes through the political and social upheaval we have witnessed in recent years, we can not allow ourselves the arrogance of believing we are different, or better.

In creating a Scotland we are proud of, from whatever side of the political debate we are on, we must be aware of the dangers of national vanity as opposed to national pride. The way we conduct ourselves in our political debate is incredibly important.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed with sadness at our inability to do anything of use. What the people who suffered want is for us to remember and for us to be warned.

Yesterday I found a ticket in my bag for the museum we visited in Potacari.

Beneath the rows of coffins, in three languages are the words:

“You are my witness.”

That’s the least I can do.